Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Religious Exploration III: Becoming a Saint

The Catholic Saint: One facet of religion, that I have had virtually NO experience with. So, I wonder... who can become a saint? How? When? Where? Why?

I did a little research and here is what I've discovered...


The historic Christian practice of asking our departed brothers and sisters in Christ—the saints—for their intercession has come under attack in the last few hundred years. Though the practice dates to the earliest days of Christianity and is shared by Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, the other Eastern Christians, and even some Anglicans—meaning that all-told it is shared by more than three quarters of the Christians on earth—it still comes under heavy attack from many within the Protestant movement that started in the sixteenth century.

Exactly how many saints are there?
Simple answer: I don't know.

Longer answer: There are over 10,000 named saints and beati from history, the Roman Martyology and Orthodox sources, but I know of no definitive "head count".

Why don't we know exactly? Isn't there a list?
There are several lists. However, the exact number varies from one list to another. Some reasons:

* not all saints are part of the universal calendar, and their cultus was not always known to each of the list makers through the centuries

* due to lack of surviving documentation, we're still discovering martyrs from the early Church who were not previously known, or (more commonly) whose names have been combined, mispelled, etc. resulting in their being counted as several persons

* the 1969 revision of the General Calendar resulted in many of the saints being moved to local calendars, or those of specific orders; some folks were dropped entirely as better scholarship showed they were pious legend instead of flesh and blood

In addition we have the problem of not knowing the names of all the saints. Sometimes we know that a number of Christians were martyred for their faith, but we don't have their names, or we only have the names of the people considered their leaders. There are any number of reasons for this, but usuall the persecutors were illiterate, did not care who their victims were, or (in more modern times) were trying to cover up the incident.

Finally, there are unquestionably incidents of missionary monks, nuns, or lay people who were killed who-knows-where, and whose deaths were known only to themselves, their killers, and God.


So, now that we know (or don't know) that there are many, many Saints out there, recognized by the Catholic Church... I wonder: "how does one qualify?"

Procedure for Causes of Beatification and Canonization

1. Canon norms regarding the procedure to be followed for causes of saints are contained in the Apostolic Constitution 'Divinus Perfectionis Magister,' promulgated by John Paul II on January 25, 1983.

2. To begin a cause it is necessary for at least 5 years to have passed since the death of the candidate. This is to allow greater balance and objectivity in evaluating the case and to let the emotions of the moment dissipate.

3. The bishop of the diocese in which the person whose beatification is being requested died is responsible for beginning the investigation. The promoter group ('Actor Causae'): diocese, parish, religious congregation, association, asks the bishop through the postulator for the opening of the investigation. The bishop, once the 'nulla osta' of the Holy See is obtained, forms a diocesan tribunal for this purpose. Witnesses are called before the tribunal to recount concrete facts on the exercise of Christian virtues considered heroic, that is, the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and others specific to his state in life. In addition, all documents regarding the candidate must be gathered. At this point he is entitled to the title of Servant of God.

4. Once the diocesan investigation is finished, the acts and documentation are passed on to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The public copy used for further work is put together here. The postulator, resident in Rome, follows the preparation of the 'Positio', or summary of the documentation that proves the heroic exercise of virtue, under the direction of a relator of the Congregation. The 'Positio' undergoes an examination (theological) by nine theologians who give their vote. If the majority of the theologians are in favour, the cause is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops who are members of the congregation. They hold meetings twice a month. If their judgment is favourable, the prefect of the congregation presents the results of the entire course of the cause to the Holy Father, who gives his approval and authorizes the congregation to draft the relative decree. The public reading and promulgation of the decree follows.

5. For the beatification of a confessor a miracle attributed to the Servant of God, verified after his death, is necessary. The required miracle must be proven through the appropriate canonical investigation, following a procedure analogous to that for heroic virtues. This one too is concluded with the relative decree. Once the two decrees are promulgated (regarding the heroic virtues and the miracle) the Holy Father decides on beatification, which is the concession of public worship, limited to a particular sphere. With beatification the candidate receives the title of Blessed.

6. For canonization another miracle is needed, attributed to the intercession of the Blessed and having occurred after his beatification. The methods for ascertainment of the affirmed miracle are the same as those followed for beatification. Canonization is understood as the concession of public worship in the Universal Church. Pontifical infallibility is involved. With canonization, the Blessed acquires the title of Saint."

-12 September 1997, Vatican Information Services


And... who is responsible for this?

Congregation for the Causes of Saints

With the Apostolic Constitution Immensa Aeterni Dei of 22 January 1588, Sixtus V created the Sacred Congregation of Rites and entrusted to it the task of regulating the exercise of divine worship and of dealing with the Causes of Saints.
Paul VI, with the Apostolic Constitution Sacra Rituum Congregatio of 8 May 1969, divided the Congregation of Rites, creating the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Congregation of Causes of Saints.

With the same Apostolic Constitution of 1969, the new Congregation for the Causes of Saints took on its own structure with three distinct offices: the judiciary, that of the Promoter General of the Faith, and the historical-juridical, which was the continuation of the Historical Section created by Pius XI on 6 February 1930.

The Apostolic Constitution "Divinus Perfectionis Magister" of 25 January 1983, and the respective "Normae servandae in inquisitionibus ab episcopis faciendis in causis sanctorum" of 7 February 1983, made possible both a profound reform in procedure for canonization causes and the restructuring of the congregation. It was given a College of Relators, assigned to take care of the preparation of the "Positiones super vita et virtutibus (o super martyrio) of Servants of God.

John Paul II, with the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus" of 28 June 1988, changed the name to Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The pro-prefect of the congregation is Archbishop Alberto Bovone, Archbishop Edward Nowak, and Monsignor Michele Di Ruberto. In addition, there is a staff of 22 people. The congregation has 23 members - cardinals, archbishops and bishops - 1 promoter of the faith (prelate theologian), 6 relators and 71 consultors.

Joined to the dicastery is the "Study," instituted 2 June 1984, whose objective is the formation of postulators and those who collaborate with the congregation, as well as those who exercise the various assignments before the diocesan curia for the treatment of the causes of saints. The "Study" also has the task of updating the "Index ac Status Causarum."

The congregation prepares each year everything necessary for the pope to be able to set forth new examples of holiness. After approving results on miracles, martyrdom and heroic virtues of various Servants of God, the Holy Father proceeds to a series of canonizations and beatifications.

1 comment:

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